OrderPaperToday- Another International Women’s Day (IWD) is upon us, held March 8 every year.

The global event is marked by celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women to promote gender parity.

2020’s theme for IWD is #EachforEqual, focusing on the efforts being made worldwide to close the equality gap, to fight bias and to counteract stereotypes.

IWD began in 1911 and while there have been push and achievements recorded in some countries, World Economic Forum in a report released on March 6, 2020, said gender parity will be achieved only in about 100 years.

Excerpts of the report read: “Despite improvements made since the survey’s inception 14 years ago, it will still take almost a century before women can expect to achieve equality with men. That means almost no woman alive today will experience gender parity.”

Looking on the bright side, the 9th Nigerian Senate reintroduced a Gender and Equal Opportunities bill on 26th of November, 2019, sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti).

This was after its first rejection in March 2016 when some male lawmakers argued that the Nigerian Constitution was clear on the rights of citizens, including women.

In commemorating the International Women’s Day, this article will shed more light on the provisions sought by the bill in achieving gender parity in Nigeria.

Long title of the bill

A bill for an act to incorporate and enforce certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the women in Africa.

Purpose

The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to Chapters II and IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria such that:

“The lnternational Covenants on Human Rights which affirm the principle of non-discrimination and proclaims that all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all the rights set out without distinction of any kind including distinction based on sex;

“Certain provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa.

“No person, organ or agency of government, public and private institution, commercial or corporate body shall either through words spoken, acts, inactions, omissions, laws, regulations, administrative procedures, policies, guidelines, rules, customs or practices discriminate against any person on the ground of gender, age or disability;

“Any law, regulation, custom or practice, which constitutes discrimination, shall be null and void and of no effect and shall not be enforceable against any person and no rule or directive of an organ or agency of government, public or private insurance, corporate, social or communal entity which is a violation of the Provisions of this bill shall be enforced against any person.”

Promotion of equality, full development and advancement of the persons

The bill mandates every organ or agency of government, public and private institution or commercial or corporate body in Nigeria to take all appropriate measures, including regulatory policy, fiscal and administrative measures, to ensure the full development and advancement of all persons, especially young women and girl children, for the purpose of guaranteeing to them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of non-discrimination and equality of all persons.

Women, children and other persons are to be accorded equality before the law– to conclude contracts, administer property, in all stages of proceedings in courts and tribunals etc.

35 percent affirmative action for women in offices, appointments etc

The bill directs all organs of government, public or private institutions and corporate bodies to ensure – in the case of political and public sphere – that a minimum of 35 per cent of all offices, positions, or appointments is reserved for women.

In the case of employment, credit or other economic sphere in the public or private, a minimum of 35 percent of all offices, facilities, positions or appointments is reserved for women and in other cases.

In the case of educational placement and school enrolment, including award of scholarships bursaries, or such allocations, that parity is ensured for boys and girls, men and women;

In the case of primary school enrolment, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure parity in enrolment and retention of boys and girls.

Elimination of stereotypes, changes to socio-cultural practices

The bill wants the elimination of gender stereotyping, prejudices and customary practices based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either sexes, or the roles for men and women.

To this end, educational institutions, private and public will ensure the adoption of appropriate teaching methods and curriculum including facilities to emphasise the promotion of equality of all sexes.

It also seeks that families are charged with responsibility of ensuring values, practices of upbringing of children is not discriminatory.

Furthermore, a widow must not be subjected to inhuman treatment while she is entitled to the custody of her children after the death of her husband, unless this is contrary to the welfare and interests of the children.

It provides for her freedom, right and choice to remarry, have fair share in the inheritance of her husband’s property and continue to live in the matrimonial house.

It, however, includes that women and men shall have the right to inherit, in equitable shares, their parents’ properties.

Elimination of discrimination in political and public life

The legislative draft mandates all organs of government, public or private institutions and corporate bodies to take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country such that both men and women have the right to participate in all political activities.

Both genders, the bill proposes, shall be allowed to participate in formulation and implementation of government policy and represent any organ of government, public or private institutions, corporate bodies and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Elimination of discrimination in employment

The bill instructs all organs of government, public or private institutions and corporate bodies to take appropriate measures to grant equal remuneration of persons of equal skill, competence, expertise and knowledge including benefits while there is equal treat in respect of work or equal value.

It seeks the provision of social security, particularly in cases of unemployment, sickness, physical challenges, old age and other Incapacity to work and bestows on women in employment, the right to maternity leave or any such leave it concession relating to her maternity needs
with pay or comparable social benefits.

Elimination of discrimination on grounds of marital status

The bill proposes that all organs of government, public or private institutions and corporate bodies should take appropriate measures to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage, marital status or maternity, establishment and development of child care facilities in the work premises.

Elimination of discrimination in Health

Every organ of government, public or private institutions and corporate bodies are ensure all women who are pregnant, within 2 years of delivery and all children under the age of 12 are given free and quality health care services including provision of all necessary medical, surgical, diagnostic and pharmaceutical supplies.

Offences, penalties and compensations

It states that any person or organ of government, public or private institutions and corporate bodies that neglects the duties imposed in the bill commits an offence and shall be liable in conviction to such term of imprisonment not less than one year, or such fine not less than N500,000 or both.

Any person who rights have been violated shall be entitled to fair and adequate compensation as may be deemed by court.

The Commission

The National Human Rights Commission is vested with the powers to enforce and implement the provisions of the bill.

Jurisdiction

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory shall have the original jurisdiction to look into applications arising from the breach of the Provisions of the bill.

Future of the bill

On a later legislative day, the lead principles of the bill will be presented by the sponsor of the bill and debated by her colleagues.

If given the much needed support, the bill will scale second reading, be referred to a relevant committee and pass through public hearing.

At the third reading stage, the chamber will either decide to approve or disapprove the passage of the bill for third reading.

This is coming at a time where Nigerian female advocates are sustaining a clamour for affirmative action for women in public offices at all levels and the inclusion of this provision as amendment to the 1999 constitution. The Senate constitution review committee has already commenced preliminary work while the House is in the process of composing membership of its own.

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